Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Family Violence in the presence of a child

My question is to the Attorney-General. The government’s family violence strategy and $3.5 billion worth of spending in the area have some shortfalls, in the opinion of our party. Recent Crime Statistics Agency case studies tell us this. In terms of perpetrators, there are a range of offences that can be used to prosecute offenders’ behaviour when it comes to family violence. Sections 23 and 24 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 are often used. However, both attract a maximum penalty of only three and six months imprisonment respectively. Disgracefully just 30 per cent of the guilty verdicts for section 23 receive imprisonment, and where they do, half get less than six months. Thirty per cent of section 23s are dismissed, 20 per cent result in a fine and 20 per cent get a community correction order. Section 24 is often used for family violence, though, where the violence was aggravated as it was in the presence of a female or a child under 14. This offence disregards the impact of family violence on adolescent boys. For section 24 offences, 70 per cent of offenders get less than six months imprisonment. Attorney, does the current sentencing regime deal with family violence perpetrators adequately, especially in situations where that violence is in the presence of a child?

Thank you, Attorney. The question was more about offences that sit outside the breaches of intervention orders. That was what I was trying to get at. Crime Statistics Agency data that came out earlier this year looked at the effects of family violence on children. It said, and I quote, where intimate partner violence involved children, it was: … more likely to involve assault and repeat police attended incidents … spanning over a longer period of time, and involve family violence protection orders. The same data shows that around 77 per cent of children witnessing family violence went on to have a negative interaction with the justice system within five years. Other evidence suggests many kids experiencing family violence go on to become perpetrators themselves. It seems to me that it is extremely important that family violence in the presence of a child or children is taken with the utmost seriousness. In the opinion of our party the current sentencing regime clearly does not allow for adequate sentencing in these situations. My supplementary therefore is: Attorney, will the government commit to looking at a new offence for family violence in the presence of a child with a maximum penalty of at least two years imprisonment and a requirement to attend Caring Dads or another similar rehabilitative program?


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